This post first appeared on Baze Mpinja's blog, Beautycism.com
When hip-hop artists spout horribly misogynistic lyrics, the Twittersphere weighs in, the media chooses sides and sometimes protestors take to the streets. Fair enough, but how about we give credit to rappers when they do something right? J. Cole deserves a shout out for his new single "Crooked Smile" from his Born Sinner album. The song delivers an uplifting message to women who are plagued with insecurities: "Love yourself, girl, or nobody will."
It's fitting that Cole recruited T-Boz and Chilli to lend their voices to "Crooked Smile" because like TLC's hit "Unpretty," the song is about impossible beauty standards and self-image. In the first verse, Cole brags that he's maintained his success without fixing his "twisted grill" and his "thick as hell" eyebrows. He urges ladies to stop trying to cover up their own perceived flaws.
Oh, you a woman? I don't know how you deal / With all the pressure to look impressive and go out in heels / I feel for you / Killing yourself to find a man that'll kill for you / You wake up, put makeup on / Stare in the mirror but it's clear that you can't face what's wrong / No need to fix what God already put his paint brush on
J. Cole continues to showcase his sensitive side in the second verse by reassuring us that we're fabulous just the way we are.
Take it from a man who loves what you've got / And baby girl, you're a star, don't let 'em tell you you're not / Cause what's real is something that the eyes can't see / That the hands can't touch / that them broads can't be / and that's you
He uses the last verse to remind us that we don't have to look a certain way to go for what we want in life. And, as he points out, there are bigger, non-superficial problems in America.
We don't look nothing like the people on the screen / You know them movie stars, picture perfect beauty queens / But we got dreams and the right to chase 'em / Look at the nation, that's a crooked smile even braces couldn't straighten / Seem like half the race is either on probation, or in jail
Although "Crooked Smile" is a refreshing display of social awareness, it doesn't mean that Cole's entire album is warm and fuzzy. Rappers have the right to say what they want, and offensive lyrics aren't going away anytime soon. But perhaps if we pay just as much attention to inspiring songs as we do the controversial ones, the latter won't have as much power.